PR Newswire, Jan 14, 2002

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida Farm Bureau President Carl Loop and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson today announced a cooperative project to help increase public awareness about the state's second-largest industry.

"The downturn in travel in recent months has greatly affected tourism, Florida's top industry, leading to increased interest about our state's overall economy," Bronson said. "Many people are surprised to learn that agriculture is Florida's second-largest industry, generating billions of dollars annually and providing jobs and economic stability for our state."

To help foster a better understanding about the importance of agriculture to Florida's economy, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has joined with the Florida Farm Bureau Federation to develop a public awareness campaign that will be launched next month.

"Florida agriculture faces many challenges," Bronson said. "Thousands of acres of farmland are lost each year to urban sprawl and development. In addition, Florida growers are at a disadvantage in the global marketplace, competing with foreign companies that often do not pay taxes, do not follow environmental regulations, and pay below-poverty-level wages."

"Keeping Florida agriculture viable is crucial to the continued stability and prosperity of our state," Loop said. "It's important for the public to understand the vital role agriculture plays in the well-being of our state, not just in these current uncertain times, but into the future."

The public awareness campaign will focus on how affordable food is for American consumers; the abundance, variety and safety of Florida agricultural products, and the importance of maintaining a reliable and secure domestic food source.

The campaign will include television public service announcements, outdoor advertising, radio, outreach programs, newspaper and magazine articles, and other informational and promotional media. The Florida Farm Bureau Federation is funding the initiative, while the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is providing marketing and advertising services in accordance with its statutory responsibility to promote Florida agriculture.

"Florida agriculture is not usually visible to the general public, and, as a result, most Floridians and visitors are not aware of its importance to our state's economy," Bronson said. "We believe it is important that Floridians be well informed about the immense value of this bedrock of our state's economy."

Florida farmers receive nearly $7 billion in cash receipts for crops and other commodities annually. In addition, Florida agriculture and forestry products have an estimated overall economic impact of more than $50 billion annually.

Consumer research recently conducted by the Department on behalf of Florida Farm Bureau showed that less than 10 percent of the general public understands the economic value or importance of agriculture; only one-third could identify major crops produced in Florida, and a majority do not consider where their food comes from when grocery shopping.

Charles Bronson

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